The largest teachers' union yesterday launched legal action against the Government to stop teachers being forced to assess the suitability of individual colleagues for pay awards.
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, accused ministers of forcing through changes to contracts which would "destroy relationships in schools" and make teachers "inform" on each other.
The union wants a judicial review of new regulations which could force teachers to help heads assess their colleagues under the new system of performance-related pay.
The Department for Education and Employment said it would resist any legal challenge, but Mr McAvoy warned that the union would back strike action if the legal challenge failed.
The regulations, which come into force today, govern the criteria for teachers passing the new "performance threshold" at the heart of the Government's proposals for pay reform.
Passing the threshold will give teachers an immediate £2,000 pay rise and access to new pay scales up to a maximum of £35,000. Teachers who apply for the pay rise must show evidence of their skills and demonstrate that exam results are good.
But Government guidelines say independent assessors may speak to their heads of department or fellow teachers to "verify evidence cited in the application".
Mr McAvoy said: "It's a form of snooping. If you apply for a pay rise and your colleague has to give an assessment of you - if you get the £2,000 he'll want you to buy him a pint.
"But if you don't get it, it could be because the external assessor didn't like you. But your belief will be that your colleague may have said something bad about you. Whether he shares his chalk with you in the future would be debatable."
The union argues the regulations are illegal because ministers failed to consult the School Teachers' Pay Review Body.
Mr McAvoy accused the Government of pushing through the regulations by "manoeuvre and manipulation" because the Welsh Assembly had already voted not to base the performance pay system on pupils' results.
He said: "Nothing as devious, deceitful and manipulative as this was ever done by the Tories. This Government has sunk to new lows in the staff rooms. You will find teachers acting as informers on others. Certainly teachers will find this offensive that they have been asked to inform on other staff.
"We are annoyed and angry at this devious route by which the Government is trying to worsen teachers' conditions of service and the way in which this will change the relationships between teacher and teacher by making them informers."
A spokesman for the DFEE said: "We do not think there is any reason not to continue with our proposals. We will resist any legal challenge to the order.
"We think it's entirely reasonable for heads of department for example to contribute to such an assessment system."Reuse content